21 June 2016

Chasing the holy grail - my bread making journey

Some time ago, before she left for London, daughter A learnt how to make sourdough bread.  So excited was she about the loaves she was making, she shared her new-found skills with me.  I have to admit that at first I was sceptical that I would be able to produce a decent loaf and the thought of keeping the sourdough starter alive was daunting to say the least.  However, it only took one loaf for me to become hooked.

This bread has a beautiful soft crumb, it has just the right amount of  crunch in the crust and a lovely flavour.  It is made with a mixture of  wholemeal spelt and strong white bakers flour.  The method of making this bread is very easy and can be fitted effortlessly into one's life.

I am even making sourdough fruit loaves.  These beat the pants off any shop bought  fruit loaf and a slice has become a regular addition to morning coffees.

I was very happy making a couple of loaves a week in bread tins until A suggested that we do an artisan bread making course together.  Actually she was planning to do this with a girlfriend but, sadly for her girlfriend and luckily for me, she was sick on the scheduled day and I took her place.  I came home with all the tools needed to become an artisan breadmaker.  I am still working on the skills needed before I can call myself a true artisan, but the kit looks impressive.

This is the dough I made in class happily rising in its banneton.

And here it is after it came out of the oven.  Not bad, but not what I was hoping to achieve.  This loaf, by the way, is made with Khorasan flour and contains chia seeds.   Khorasan is an ancient grain, even older than spelt and has a wonderful buttery flavour.  It makes a delicious loaf.

So now I am chasing the holy grail of artisan bread making.  It has to look good as well as taste fantastic.  Despite the ugly appearance of this loaf, it did taste good. But that's a fail.

This loaf didn't do it for me either.  Again it tasted good, but it reminds me of a fat little penguin sitting on the bench.

Another Khorasan and chia loaf, but I just can't get the top of the loaf to look good.  I slash a triangle into the dough before it goes into the oven and it is supposed to open up and look amazing.

This doesn't look amazing.  One side opened up but the other side remained stubbornly closed.

Obviously I haven't got the slashing technique quite right.  So I decided to do straight slashes instead of a triangle and I am liking the results.

If I had not seen what our teacher produced in class, I would have been thrilled with this loaf. 

Then I saw a picture in a magazine of a very good looking loaf which had been slashed in a completely different way and which made my straight slashes look a bit boring.   I decided to try it.

Am I there yet?

I don't know what a true artisan baker would make of my efforts, but I have to say I am rather pleased with this loaf.  Have I reached the holy grail - you be the judge.

22 May 2016

Birthday quilt

My first born turned 40 in April.  You know that time is slipping away when your children start having BIG birthdays.  

I have wanted to make her a quilt for some time but, knowing how fussy she is about patterns and colours, I kept putting it off.  When I found a pattern and fabric which I loved and just had to use, I decided to make her a quilt and hope for the best.

During the making of this quilt, which I call 'Stairways' I fell in love with it as did several others who saw it so that I knew if M didn't like it, I would be able to find it a good home.

As it turned out, that wasn't necessary because she loves it (I think she is being truthful).

It is always welcome to come home again, as I think it looks rather nice in my house.  Don't they say that the best presents are those that you don't want to give away.

30 April 2016

Flowers and more flowers

The light in London is so good for photography and the flowers are so plentiful and affordable.  I spent a lot of time putting flowers on windowsills and taking their picture.

Little M decided that one of her Sylvanian Family members should also pose for a photo.

I never thought I would see daffodils and hydrangeas together.  In Australia, their flowering is separated by months.  It seems that in London, anything is possible.

This beautiful pot of bulbs was insanely (by Australian standards) cheap to buy and provided weeks of pleasure.

 I prepared this post some time ago, but family events have taken precedence over blogging of late so these spring flowers are somewhat out of season now. I thought they were still worth sharing.

11 April 2016

Wood block printing

I bought these lovely wood blocks while in London as they were so decorative and also because I wanted to try my hand at printing with them.

My first attempts at printing were not successful as I had not realised  it was necessary to remove the white paint first. Until the penny dropped,  I couldn't understand why there were flakes of paint in my prints.  Once I had washed it off, however, I was really pleased with the result.  Luckily I experimented on scrap fabric first.

The printing is  not perfect and here and there are little spots of  paint, but I really don't mind that as it gives the fabric a hand-made look rather than a mass-produced one.

I used a couple of cushion covers which I picked up in Spotlight for a very reasonable price (just in case I was unsuccessful).  Now that I know what I am doing, I would feel more confident using better quality fabric.

I haven't yet used the small paisley block, but have a few ideas in mind.

09 April 2016

Chelsea Physic garden

I find it truly incredible that this little garden in the heart of Chelsea, has been around since 1686.

The snowdrops were blooming in the Chelsea Physic Garden while I was in London so a visit was called for.  

I did know that there are many varieties of snowdrops, what I didn't know was how different they are.

When it is not going by its botanical name, this one is called "Grumpy".  Not hard to see why!

Simply beautiful.